John Scarffe, Nederland. The Nederland Board of Trustees hired Karen Gerrity as the new Town administrator during a regular meeting at 7 p.m., August 1, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center. The Board also discussed sending a letter suggesting that the West Magnolia campground be shut down.
Mayor Kristopher Larsen announced: “We are streaming to the internet for the first time.” According to the Town website, streaming will begin before each meeting at about 6:55 p.m. The stream can be accessed through Town website on the “Civic Web” page and then by clicking on the “Live Stream” tab in the bottom left.
The Board adopted a resolution appointing Karen Gerrity to the position of Town administrator and zoning administrator. Larsen said the search for a new administrator began in February, and the Town received 42 applications for the position.
The Trustees spent time reviewing the applicants and working through the decision process. According to the employment contract, Gerrity’s term of appointment will begin on September 1, 2017, and continue indefinitely. The position is a statutory office of the Town, and the appointment is subject to appointment by the Board within 30 days after each biennial regular municipal election.
In the event the Board of Trustees does not take action to terminate Gerrity at such time, she will be considered automatically re-appointed to her position without further formal action by the Board. Acting by majority vote of the entire Board, the Board may suspend Gerrity at any time, with full pay and benefits, for a period not to exceed 30 days.
Gerrity, who lives on Camp Eden Road in Coal Creek Canyon, was at the meeting and said that tonight marks the realization of a dream for her to live and work in the mountains. Over the years she has shopped at B&F Super Market and Ace Hardware and snow shooed and hiked in the area.
“Nederland is our mountain community. It’s my great honor to utilize 30 years of experience to work in partnership with the citizens, mayor and trustees. My intention is to show up in an authentic and open manner.”
Gerrity earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2002 she was honored as one of four women who “Light up the Community” by the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.
Since 2008, Gerrity has been the cultural affairs manager for the City and County of Broomfield, Colorado.
From 2004 to 2012 she was an Advisory Board Member for US Bank.
From 2005 to 2008, she was deputy district administrator for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District of the Denver Metro Area. She was chief operating officer from 2004 to 2005. She was executive director of the Dairy Center for the Arts from 2001 to 2004 and founding business director for Boulder Country Day School from 1988 to 2001.
Dallas Masters, Trustee liaison to the Nederland Parks, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Board (PROSAB), said the advisory board wanted the Board of Trustees to send a letter the U.S. Forest Service providing some input on the West Magnolia dispersed camping area one mile south of Nederland. PROSAB has received a lot of feedback from the public that has given members enough impetus to send a letter.
The Forest Service and Nederland have been working toward a long-term goal for West Magnolia, Masters said. It’s a human safety and fire safety issue. PROSAB would like to request that something be done immediately.
The Forest Service said it would like to do something long term, but in the short term should they close the camp? PROSAB took public comments at a meeting in June and also received comments by email, Masters said.
The majority of the comments were in favor of the idea in the letter. PROSAB has no standing to shut down camping at West Magnolia but would like to partner with the Forest Service.
The memorandum to the Nederland Board of Trustees from PROSAB states that PROSAB frequently meets with the Forest Service at its monthly meetings, and the topic of conditions and issues at the USFS West Magnolia camping area is a reoccurring discussion. “USFS District Ranger Sylvia Clark has requested that Nederland provide input regarding potential policy changes to the West Magnolia dispersed camping area.
This memorandum provides a recommendation to the Nederland Board of Trustees.
“The recommended policy changes are intended to improve the current conditions at West Magnolia dispersed camping area which are considered unacceptable by Nederland residents. Current conditions pose extreme safety and health hazards to all users, including both visiting users and Nederland resident users,” according to the memo.
“The unsafe conditions are widely recognized by the local community to a point where a large majority of Nederland residents no longer use the area nor recommend the area to others.”
The memo details the Specific issues in graphic detail and then recommends that the Trustees formally propose to the Forest Service the following policy changes to the West and East Magnolia areas. The vision of West Magnolia for three to five years from now is a monitored campground by a host, similar to the Kelly Dahl campground two miles south of West Magnolia road.
The number of sites could potentially be expanded from 22 to 40 or 50, according to the memo. It could provide multiple bathroom facilities, fire rings that ensure containment and a dumpster. Basic, yet clean, monitored and safe camping would be provided to attract area residents and visitors alike.
PROSAB also recommends that, in the short term, since it may take some time to convert West Magnolia to a pay campground, West Magnolia should be closed temporarily to all camping immediately. Nederland would urge the Forest Service to consider management plans that would maximize legal access hours for recreational users. This closure should be in effect until the monitored, pay campground is opened.
The memo states that the adjacent East Magnolia corridor east of the Peak to Peak Highway must also be managed differently and designated as a no-camping area. “In the interest of public safety for the greater good of the Town of Nederland community, PROSAB urges the Nederland Board of Trustees to make a formal recommendation to the USFS for new management policies for the West and East Magnolia areas.”
In response, Trustee Kevin Mueller said we should embrace empathy and should put ourselves in the shoes of those who camp there. Trustee Julie Gustafson said this is an impossible issue at the societal level. This area, as well as Gordon Gulch [a dispersed camping area five miles north of town], are used by families and young people, and they have the right to use public lands.
“We have an obligation to provide a safe place,” Gustafson said. She agrees that something needs to be done, and a regional approach could be years in the making. “How do we pass something for this neighborhood and be good neighbors for Sugar Loaf or other areas? I think it’s a good start.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Wood said this is a complicated problem. “It’s our responsibility to represent the people of Nederland who want to be welcoming, but this is a case, if there ever was one, of something being unsustainable. I’m in favor of the letter.”
Trustee Alan Apt pointed out that the city of Boulder closed its camping areas and then they have to come up here. Trustee Topher Donahue said it reminds him of actions taken on forest shooting.
They closed the shooting area down and made a plan to deal with it later on, Donahue said. “The day they closed that, it exploded everywhere else. It did not make it safer. I do not support this. My alarm bells are ringing like crazy, but sentiment is strong in Nederland. It will have unintended consequences.”
Larsen said he is nervous about closing down West Magnolia, but he will defer to public opinion. He agrees with the long-term goal of making it a paid campground.
Eleven area residents made statements during public comment. Some comments were mixed saying, “What if the campers go deeper and we make things worse, but my personal vision is a place where I can take my kids, and I can’t do that now,” or “We’re very sympathetic to homeless, but it’s not safe because of homeless people.”
Five speakers supported the letter and four opposed it. Pastor Hansen Wendlandt said that closing the campground immediately and moving to a paid campsite doesn’t achieve the Town’s goals.
“They will end up in my back yard, but we are going to have more police. It will make their jobs harder if you close West Magnolia. The homeless will go somewhere else,” Wendlandt said.
Kathleen Chippi pointed out that the Cold Springs Fire was started on private land because their car broke down. Like the shooting ban, this is just going to make matters worse.
Masters said that PROSAB has studied this issue for many years. Board members are very much aware that it’s a national and state issue, but watching an area degrade is potentially harmful, and the advisory board wants to get the attention of the Forest Service to move it up on their priority list.
After much more discussion among Trustees, Larsen said that he is concerned with shutting down West Magnolia. What if the Forest Service gets this tomorrow and shuts it down?
“I don’t know if we have a clear view going forward,” Larsen said. “We have heard pretty clearly tonight that we need to make a statement of some sort. I would not have a problem with reworking the second paragraph.
“I would be happier if it says, ‘If you can’t enforce regulations in the area you should close it down.’ It should be closed temporarily or the U.S. Forest Service should provide resources to run it as a safe environment.”
Larsen said he would rework the letter to clean up the language, and the Board approved.
(Originally published in the August 10, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)